Intersection: Technology and Music

 In General

Intersection is a cornerstone for innovation, in this series we explore spaces in which colliding viewpoints, practices or bodies of work join together for innovative and enthralling results.

There has long been a relationship between the worlds of technology and music, whether it be songs inspired by our digital age [ St Vincent’s Digital Witness ] that sounds like robots made it [ KraftWerk’s The Robots ] or songs crafted with the latest in technology [ Sugarhill Gang’s sampling of Chic Good Times in Rappers Delight ] human’s hunger for music, musicians desire to innovate and companies need to make money has lead to an eternally catalytic industry.

We have moved from wax/vinyl/wire and laser discs through cassette tapes to CDs and MP3s, embraced samplers, theremin and laser harps. And although the Omnichord or Do-Re-Mi are not necessarily in your home next to your speaker set-up, a great deal of music innovation has been successful and really flown.

These days In light of Apple Music, or that super uncomfortable press junket for Tidal you would be forgiven for thinking that the intersection of music and technology is largely restricted to ways to listen to music on your iPhone. Which is not to say that it isn’t innovative. Pandora after-all run their music genome project, Spotify their algorithm and Apple, are doing something that either we will all f*cking love or hate depending on who you talk to. But what about outside the land of handheld devices, what are we seeing in that intersection of music and tech in the physical world?

This question was front of mind for me as I sat at Semi Permanent last week watching a man make music with a banana, balloons and later on crayons and tiny robots. Yuri Suzuki, as well as possessing the job and skills I wish I had, is pushing the boundaries on both how sound is interpreted and how it is made. Dyslexic, forever curious and in love with music, Yuri’s Looks Like Music Installation [Mudam 2103]  uses his colour chasers – tiny robots that can read physical interpretations of colour as music, to allow people to literally draw music. This idea of music being a physical, tangible and easy to access thing is pushed even further with OTOTO, a project with Mark McKeague that allows you to turn any conductive object into something can make music. His aim is not to create the next new breakthrough instrument, but increase accessibility capturing attention through discovery and visuality.

Visuals are key to success for performers too. Few will know this better than mega girl group Perfume. Japan’s all-singing all-dancing love letter to the mashup of music meets motion capture technology. The three piece group has had amazing success and whilst their talents are key, the behind the scenes work of the legendary Daito Manabe is definitely a contributing factor. For the uninitiated, Daito works in interactive and digital with plenty of projects under his belt that deal with the visual and physical representation of sound. In perfumes case this has lead to a Silver Lion award and people losing their minds at SXSW over visually dazzling projected 3D graphics.

Closer to home Sensorium have built upon the Oculus platform to deliver immersive visual music experiences. Their tech allows users to attend concerts without having to physically be there. Meanwhile musicians can create targeted content suited for their needs, whether that be side of stage or on stage experiences for fans, or letting management (or future management) get a taste of their latest performances. Partner brands can use the technology to add value to product launches whilst there are obvious uses for the solution in travel and hospitality settings. A pop up mini SXSW in Hamilton? Not so crazy if you can pull through content from the gigs to back home using Sensorium creating an interesting partner city/value added option for festivals out there.

This idea of New Zealand creating music innovation may not seem like the most logical link, and Kiwi-based Serato get that, but it does not stop them from being just that – a market leading, innovative, New Zealand-born company working in the intersection of music and technology. World leading DJ software is Serato’s calling card, which now encompasses a family of products and add-ons that have become ubiquitous for DJs the world over, utilised by some heavy hitters such as DJ Premier, Mix Master Mike, DJK and many more. Serato’s success isnt the only example of kiwis getting innovation in music right, after-all we are the home of the Hotcake and Red Witch, the latter whom recently crowdfunded investment via Snowball Effect.

In the here-and-now the catalytic engine of music and technology bounds on, from the artful play of musical bananas to the creative and commercial outcomes from a project like Sensorium. Or the below, a little online tool that allows you to convert your typing into a musical and audiovisual experience, all whilst on your coffee break at work. 

Anya has been in love with the transformative and revolutionary power of music since discovering Dieter Rams and The White Coffin in her teens. Today she wrangles Brand & Communications for GridAKL. You can get in touch with her here

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